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Perhaps it’s karma!

Perhaps it’s karma!

iu-2ATLAH World Missionary Church is the Harlem NY church well known for the horrendous messages it posts on it sign. Recently a New York judge ruled that the building was to be sold at action because of the church’s $1.02 million in tax liens and unpaid debts. Because the property may soon be available for purchase, the Ali Forney Center has started an online fundraiser to amass $200,000 to obtain the building. The Ali Forney Center is an advocacy organization for GLBT youth and young adults. The Center’s founder and executive director, Carl Siciliano hopes to turn the church building into a homeless shelter for the GLBT kids they serve.

Mr Siciliano feels that it would be fitting that this building which is currently home to a congregation that works so hard to evoke hatred and persecution against the GLBT community was retrofitted to serve that very same community. Especially since the violence promoted by the church against the GLBT community is the reason so many GLBT youth are homeless and in the streets.

We, as a community, have a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn what was once a center of appalling hate into a home where our youth can be safe, nurtured, supported and thrive into self-sufficient adults. Let’s seize the day, and turn the page on an ugly chapter in Harlem’s history.

Scott Woolege, GLBT community activist

The church’s pastor is convinced that the judge can’t make such a ruling against the church, “I assure you, it’s about a water bill and a tax that can’t be levied against this church,” the Revd James David Manning, who made headlines in 2014 when he argued that Starbucks flavored its coffee drinks with “sodomites’ semen,” told DNAinfo in an interview.

The images are from
This story was originally posted at HuffPost Gay Voices.

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Murdoch Matthew

Thanks to Paul Woodrum for an accurate summary of the St Mary’s/Safe Space mess. My husband, Gary, and I were in the group working to get the parish to honor its commitment. Paul doesn’t mention the lack of support for our group from bishop, diocese, and other parishes. The new rector came from a northern Michigan parish that relied on young business people. It escaped him that the business people passing by on weekdays lived far away in the suburbs.

Nevertheless, his was the wave of the future. St Mary the Virgin was on a shabby street lined with Greek diners and warehouses — the movie FAME was filmed down the block. The new rector took over just as gentrification was setting in. The diners are now fancy restaurants, the warehouses upscale hotels. Times Square is no longer a hangout for the homeless and poor, but a glittering, video-screened tourist mecca. No place for dark skinned teens…The Mission House is still unused.


Murdoch Matthew

Correction — the present rector of the Church of St Mary the Virgin didn’t come from northern Michigan, but from Michigan City, (northern) Indiana — east of Gary.

Kurt Hill

Well, I stand corrected, then. The actual situation that Paul and Murdoch outlined above is quite disturbing. It’s also disturbing that the bishop of the diocese and other parishes did not support these young people. It is, all in all, a dismal story, and not one to be proud of…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Paul Woodrum

Sometimes. Not always.

In 1991 the Trustees of St. Mary’s and the Ali Forney Center signed a five year lease for the Mission House to be used as the Safe Space Drop in Center for homeless teens, straight and gay, in the Times Square area. Included in the lease was an option for a five year renewal.

In 1998, the Center received permission from SMV to make renovations to the Mission House in order to expand its program from eight hours a day, five days a week, to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This led to a decease of the number of young people dying on the streets. It was also the year the rector, Fr. Edward Well’s, retired. The Trustees gave assurances that keeping the Safe Space program would be one of the criteria for selecting a new rector.

In February 1999, Stephen Gerth became ninth Rector of St. Mary’s. He showed no interest in the Safe Space program, never visited it, met with staff, familiarized himself with its services nor enabled volunteer participation by parishioners.

In June 1999, Safe Space was authorized to make further expensive renovations to the electrical system of 100+ year old Mission House. In June 2000 they were informed their lease would not be renewed. Caught by surprise, Safe Space asked, not for a renewal of their lease, but for time, not more than two years, to find new space to transfer their program without disrupting it. Their request was turned down. This was particularly disappointing as the program seemed to reflect perfectly the commitment of the Anglo Catholic movement to the urban poor. Unfortunately, the plight of homeless youth were not this new rector’s concern.

Paul Woodrum

Kurt, interesting spin. I’m sure the rector appreciates the victim being blamed. However, at the time, it was obvious that, after ten years of support by clergy, Board, and parishioners of St. Mary the Virgin, the Safe Space Drop in Center lease of the Mission House was not renewed because the new rector wanted a safe space for young, straight families, in his words, “In order to promote and achieve parish growth.” He feared all those gay kids next door, not to mention all those gay adult acolytes in the sanctuary and gay ushers leading folks to their pews, might scare straight people away.

Safe Space hardly squatted after SMV refused to renew their lease. What they did do was ask for reasonable time to reestablish the program in a new location so as not to interrupt their provision of counseling, AIDS education, testing and treatment, and such basic amenities as showers, meals and short term housing for homeless youth in the Times Square area. Though there were no other plans for using the Mission House, the Safe Space request was refused.

Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, caring for the sick, and bringing good news to the outcast were sacrificed on the altar of hope for middle class respectability. After protests led by Integrity and the flight of many gay members to St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Luke in the Fields, the celibate rector got his way, at least in part. He had successfully cast out the outcasts.

Kurt Hill

Well, Paul, this shows that there are always two sides to a story…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Kurt Hill

I don’t know if “kicked them out” is accurate. My understanding is that St. Mary the Virgin agreed to house the Ali Forney Center for a specific number of years only. It was understood that the parish would reclaim the space afterwards. The Forney Center, understandably, became comfortable in that space and was reluctant to move on, and basically “squatted” the premises instead of working with the parish to find a new home.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

When I was in middle school, our parish would post the Homily Title to the outside board. Our Nave was across the street from a prominent Baptist Church in the community. One Wednesday after Evening Prayer, several of us kids noticed the Baptist Sermon Title: “There Ain’t No Hell”, to which our Rector (not to be out done, posted his Homily Title: “To Hell There Ain’t”. What joys those years were.

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